Arusha, 15 February 2008 (FH) - The trial of the former Mayor of Kigali, Colonel Tharcisse Renzaho, was closed on Friday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and now the judges will deliberate on the evidence presented and give their judgement.

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The trial opened on 8 January 2007.

"We declare the trial is closed. The chamber will deliberate and the judgment will be delivered at a convenient time", stated the presiding Judge Erik Mose of Norway.

All day Thursday and Friday morning were devoted to the closing arguments. The trial was held during 49 days spread out over 13 months and 53 witnesses testified.

The prosecution requested the conviction of Renzaho for genocide and crimes against humanity including rapes, while the defence pled for an acquittal.

In his closing remarks, the defendant expressed his remorse and stated that he was innocent. "I stand to express my deep compassion towards all the victims of the terrible tragedy which terrorized Rwanda in 1994 and which does not stop producing extremely fatal aftershocks in the area", he said.

"Thanks to a fair and reconciling justice, which has raised a new hope of peace and fraternity for Rwandans instead of maintaining a climate of hatred and repeating dramas", added the defendant.

Renzaho expressed hope that the ICTR, as an impartial body, can help Rwandans "cure their deep wounds and restore a serene climate free of fear that people feel towards each other".

He assured the chamber: "I was never an Interahamwe[notorious militia group]."

The prosecution,however, stressed that Renzaho had control over the militia, which spearheaded the Tutsi genocide in 1994.

Earlier, French lawyer Francois Cantier, who led Renzaho's defence, had claimed that his client was prosecuted only because he is "an enemy" of the regime in power in Kigali.''

He added that the former Kigali mayor resisted the attack by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and protected the population from massacres", pleaded Cantier.

Mr Cantier underscored that he had had difficulties to have defence witnesses travel from Rwanda, alleging that "the will of the current power is to eliminate Mr Renzaho".